Mumbai (UCAN): Posted on April 5, 2016, 7:44 AM
A parishioner said, “There was illegal construction done and church property was used for commercial purposes.”
St Joseph’s parish in Mira Road in Mumbai is going through turbulent times, with at least 27 parishioners accusing the parish of illegal construction and money laundering.
They also claim that Church premises are rented out for Rs 40,000 per night for hosting wedding receptions and functions. This money does not find mention in the audit and is not plowed back for the benefit of the Church.
Their main grouse though, is that a spiritual centre called Anubhav, built for meditation, prayer and inter-faith communication in 2004, was turned into a school suddenly in 2013. In their complaint to the Thane Charity Commissioner in 2014, the parishioners have questioned the legality of the school and have also stated that there is embezzlement of funds. The name of the school under the scanner is St Joseph’s School, and it has a pre-primary and primary section.
“The Charity Commissioner is looking into the matter, there is progress," claimed Stephen Martis, parishioner.
Austin Menezes, a parishioner, explains, “The St Joseph’s School within the centre is illegal, and, does not have the required Floor Space Index (FSI). The two storey building is unauthorised and when a Right to Information (RTI) was filed by us in June 2015, it was revealed that there was no architect or plan.”
Robert D'souza, parishioner said, “There was illegal construction done and church property was used for commercial purposes.”
Violet Mascarenhas, St Joseph’s School headmistress denied all charges, claiming that the school in Anubhav building is legal.
Michael Fernandes, parishioner, stated that, “We want the church to be a clean body, but since we pointed out corruption; we have been getting many threats.”
These threats took the shape of a funeral wreath with a letter saying, ‘Christmas 2015 will be your last’ which was sent to some of the parishioners in September 2015. It was delivered through a local florist.
This letter had a smiley icon face and looked trivial, but the recipients filed a Non-Cognizable (NC) offence at the Mira Road police station.
Fr Melvin D’cunha, parish priest denied all allegations. He stated, "We have not received any communication from the Charity Commissioner. We do God’s work and have 25,000 people with us. These people are making false accusations. When the Charity Commissioner’s enquiry is held, we will answer as we are in the right.”